Tourist Guide


An Introduction

Getting Oriented
 -  Taxis
 -  Info Points
 -  Money
 -  Time
 -  Emergencies
 -  Medical Help
 -  Tips

What's to Drink


 High End
 -  Mid Range   
-   Airport
 -  Bed&Breakfast
 -  Low Budget
On the Cheap
 - Apartment Rental
Real Estate
 - Lithuania

 - Rave/Dance Music

-   Argentinean  
-   Caucasian

 -  Chinese  
 -  French 
 -  International 
-   Greek
 -  Italian 
 -  Japanese 
 -  Lithuanian    
 -  Ukrainian  
 -  Vegetarian

-  Fast Food/Delivery
-   Klaipeda
What's New
What's On
Yellow Pages

Other Lithuanian-related 
tourist articles: 
Letter from Little Lithuania
The Stalin World Theme Park 
Magical Curonion Spit

Zappamania in Lithuania
Jewish Vilnius
Ghosts and Goblins
Lithuanian Jazz
Wine: A Baltic Guide
What's in a name?
The Anyksciai Grove


Estonian Guide

Latvian Guide






 Vitals  Economy  Lithuanians    Lietuva   Language 

For outsiders anyway, Vilnius is a hard city to pin down. It's not quite Eastern European, not quite Scandinavian, not Russian, and not German. It's not even quite Lithuanian. This ambiguity, the diversity of influences, actually gives the city its unique character and charm.
     As many travel writers are prone to pointing out, Lithuania's capital has a certain earthiness that both Riga and Tallinn lack. For this and other reasons, many visitors to the region tend to fall madly in love with Vilnius, pegging it as their favorite Baltic city of them all. As London's Sunday Times recently commented: "Vilnius may be the most underrated capital in all of Eastern Europe."
Today, while the capital is seeing some of its fastest development, and as old town renovations pick up pace, it is thankfully not becoming too sanitized. Amid the winding cobblestone streets of the old city, you can still feel you've been transported back to the 12th or 18th century, depending on what street you happen to turn down.
     Out of all its historical experiences, the Lithuanians like to emphasize the city's days in the early Middle Ages when it was the center of a mighty Lithuanian monarchy. Vilnius residents are conscious of this glorious past and tend to bring it up every chance they get; they tend to de-emphasize the city's days of heavy Polish dominance.


Lithuanian population: 3.5 million; 80% Lithuanian; 9% Russian-speaking; 7% Polish.
Vilnius population: 580,000
Other large cities: Kaunas 414,000; Klaipeda, 203,000, Siauliai 147,000.
Total Lithuanian territory: 65,300 sq. km., about twice the size of Belgium.
Main Religions: vast majority of Lithuanians and Poles are Roman Catholic. Many Russians are Orthodox.
Climate: July and August are the warmest months, with temperatures usually just under 20°C (68°F); the coldest months are January and February, with 0°C (32°F).

The Economy

Lithuania, like the other Baltics, has made economic strides almost beyond anyone’s imagination since 1991. Inflation at the time approached a bone-chilling 1000 percent a year and economic growth was dropping like a rock. But despite predictions that Lithuania would never be able to save itself from economic ruin, it has. GDP growth was 9 percent in 2003.


The stereotype is that Lithuanians are an emotional, sometimes hot-headed people, at least compared to their neighbors to the north. Warmer and more talkative than the average Estonian, Lithuanians are also more likely to get openly irritable if you rub them the wrong way. During the drive for independence in the early '90s, Lithuania gained worldwide fame and sympathy for its gutsy, David-and-Goliath stand against Moscow. Many regarded Lithuania as the most courageous of the former Soviet republics, the only one consistently unwilling to bend her principles in the face of blood-curdling Russian threats.
       Lithuanians were staunchly pagan until the 1300s, when they still worshiped the likes of Perkunas, god of thunder. They've been staunch Catholics for going on six centuries, but many still speak with a tinge of regret about the loss of their heathen rituals.
In medieval times, Lithuania was a major European power. By sheer military might and diplomatic skill, Lithuania by 1400 was an empire stretching to the Black Sea; it included large tracts of present-day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. This grand history leads some Lithuanian leaders to act peculiarly as if they still represent a great power.


Scholars are still pulling their hair out trying to discover the origin of Lithuania, or Lietuva in Lithuanian. A Latin form of the word, Lituae, was first used in a chronicle in 1009 describing how an archbishop “was struck over the head by pagans in Lituae and then went to heaven.” A 16th century scholar associated the word with the Latin word litus, or tubes--a possible reference to wooden trumpets played by Lithuanian tribes. Modern scholars tend to brush this explanation aside, saying, instead, that Lithuania must have derived from the name of a river.
The first recorded use of the word Baltic was by 11th century German chronicler Adamus Bremen, who, writing in Latin, referred to Mare Balticum, the Baltic Sea. There are several versions about where he picked up the term. One is that he got it from the Danish word for belt or sash, belte--referring, perhaps, to the belt-like shape of the sea itself. Others say Baltic came from the Lithuanian word baltas, or white--as in the white, wind-swept sea.


Lithuanian is one of the world's oldest surviving languages, and is distantly related to Sanskrit, a religious and literary language in India. The words for god and day, for instance, are devas and dina in Sanskrit and dievas and diena in Lithuanian. Because it has changed less than other languages, Lithuanian is a linguistic link to the past and has a special place in the study of languages. It's one of two languages in the Baltic branch of Indo-European languages; the other is Latvian. Lithuanian is also related to now-extinct Old Prussian. It's not related to Estonian. You will fare well if you speak Russia; fluency in English is increasing steadily.
Laba diena/Hello
Viso gero/Good-bye 
/See you
Ar jus kalbate angliskai?/Do you speak English?
As nesuprantu/I don’t understand
Mano vardas.../My name is...
Atsiprasau/Excuse me 
Kek kainuoja?/How much is it?
Dar prasau/More please
Skanaus/Bon appetit
/one du/two trys/three keturi/four penki/five sesi/six septyni/seven astuoni/eight devyni/nine desmit/ten simtas/hundred tukstantis/thousand

 Vitals  Economy  Lithuanians    Lietuva   Language 
  Back to Top

comments/feedback to